- Tuesday 17th August
There is a fiendish scheme between the Swedish and Finnish governments to make travel across the northern tips of their countries as difficult as possible!
macer_random_tours.com saved the day again!
There is no rail link for some reason and every tourist information centre has been a bit vague, "I think there is some sort of bus connection..." So off we went and made it to Sweden's Lulea station hours later after one train trip and three bus trips (one of them was very old and rattly).
Problem 2: you can't buy train tickets at the Lulea train station! They have a more streamlined process involving a phone call reservation with some operator from the other end of the country -we had language barriers of course and let's not forget the recorded messages that that eventually disconnect you. You have to go into town to collect the ticket from a tattlotto-type place, then walk back and wait for the train.Problem 3 - the shared sleeper
These cabins for 6 convert into 6 bunks (called 'couchettes'). Two older swedish couples were our room mates so it was "doordle doordle" this and "doordle doordle" that. The 'ex-military' gentleman with a glass eye and a puff of white hair was rather loud and just coudln't get enough of us Aussies. Unfortunately he could only talk about vetern cars and trucks!
"What's the weather like in Sweden?"
"Yes, yes but did I show you the photo of my 1954 Volvo truck?
"What wild animals are in the fores out there?"
"We have some moose. What type of trucks do you have in Australia?"
Bed time - I was dreading this!! Putting the bunks up was hysterical. I bent my fingernails back on the clips and the tangle of straps was confusing us all. By the time I got into the top bunk, I was getting the giggles. Here we are banging our heads on the roof, sleeping with perfect strangers who we can hardly understand! It was then I realized that perhaps us Australians value our private space a bit more than Europeans.
Lights out at last, except for one very bright down light that just happened to be like a spotlight blinding the Swedish man with the glass eye. It was going to keep him awake! After several attempts to find the elusive switch, we all joined in switching things on and off. From the outside our cabin was a mobile strobing disco.
Sleep didn't come easily. In the darkness the train seemed to be getting ridiculously fast (catching up time) and we were being wobbled from side to side. I wondered if it was normal to find yourself sliding headlong into the wall one minute and breaking your ankles on the opposite wall the next!
The glass eyed Swedish man started to to intermittently blurt out things to his wife, "Doordle doordle. Doordle doordle."
He then proceeded to give the noisy kids next door a blast, 'Ello!!! Shud up!!!" His violent thudding on the wall made me think the train had come off its rails after all.
The worst thing was, when I looked over, Debbie was blissfully asleep!
Right: the rattly bus